Iraq abuse probe is 'whitewash', official claims
12 October 2012
A team set up to investigate allegations of abuse by British service personnel against detainees in Iraq is conducting an inquiry that is "little more than a whitewash", according to a former investigator.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was formed to investigate allegations that hundreds of Iraqi civilians had been abused while in British custody during the Iraq War. It began work in November 2010.
Former Wren Louise Thomas, 45, who worked on the IHAT for six months, told the Guardian she had resigned over the lack of progress made by the team and claimed that they were not taking abuse allegations seriously.
The allegations of abuse centre around the actions of the Joint Forces Interrogation Team (JFIT), which routinely recorded its interrogations. Thomas said that despite having seen around 1,600 interrogation videos, she believe that not all of the videos had been submitted to IHAT.
Thomas also alleged that fellow IHAT investigators dismissed the people shown in the videos as "terrorists" or "bombers" and said that they jokingly referred to her as "Miss Marple".
In an interview with the Guardian, Thomas said that the 1,600 videos of interrogations she had seen showed: Prisoners being threatened with rape; prisoners being told they were to be hanged or being interrogated naked; prisoners with new black eyes between interrogations; complaints of starvation; pleas to use the toilet and British troops "harshing" detainees.
"I saw a really dark side of the British army," Thomas told The Guardian. "The videos showed really quite terrible abuses. But some of the IHAT investigators just weren't interested."
Thomas' complaints are not the first suggestion that the IHAT's investigations are lacking rigour.
In June 2011 reports surfaced claiming that the investigation process had been a "shambles", and in June 2011, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) advised its Iraqi clients to not cooperate with investigators.
In November that year, PIL won an appeal court ruling on behalf of 128 Iraqi civilians which said the IHAT was "substantially compromised" by the involvement of the Royal Military Police (RMP) and lacked "practical independence". The ruling forced the MoD to remove all RMP personnel from the IHAT in a bid to remove "public perception of the possibility of bias".
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "All of these allegations of abuse are known to the Ministry of Defence and Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT) which is why the independent IHAT is already investigating them.
"The MoD has cooperated fully, including the provision of all known evidence.
"We are confident in the IHAT's abilities and following the outcome of their investigations, action will be considered against individuals where appropriate. Any criticisms about IHAT itself are for the organisation to answer."